Have you ever wished God would come down and fight for you? Have you ever wanted to curse your enemies? Are you wondering how long it will be before God acts to save you? In this psalm David honestly addresses all of these feelings.
There is disagreement on how to divide the psalm. It could be divided based upon thematic elements or based upon change in the direction of address. As I have been doing throughout these psalm posts, I will go with the structure as outlined by Dr. C.J. Labuschagne. At the beginning of each new section, or Canto, there is a change of address from talking to God to talking about God or visa versa.
Prayer for Deliverance
I love the imagery in this first 3 verses as David describes his Champion fighting for him. He sees God as a great Warrior with shield, buckler, spear and javelin, coming to his rescue and declaring, "I am your salvation."
Following this description we have a list of the punishments David desires to see done to his enemies. There are seven curses listed.
- May they be disgraced
- May they be turned back in dismay
- May they be like chaff in the wind
- May they be pursed by the angel of the Lord
- May ruin overtake them
- May they be caught in their own net
- May they fall into the pit
All of this because ...
they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me, Psalm 35:7
Passages like this can be a struggle for Christians. Aren't we called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44?) Can we also call down curses upon them?
I read passages like this as an honest cry for justice. David wants to see God execute justice on his enemies. It is a raw and understandable expression of his feelings. Yet I also believe that Christians are called to a higher calling. We are not to seek vengeance or even justice on our enemies. We are to seek to love them and pray for them. It is not an easy calling, but it is the example Jesus set for us on the cross.
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34
So what do we do with a passage like this? I sometimes use these passages to talk to God about my own frustrations and admit my anger and desire for justice. But no matter how I feel I also remind myself of the New Testament teachings and hand vengeance back to God.
It is our job to forgive and love. It is God's job to determine when and if there is need for punishment.
Then I Will Rejoice
At verse nine there is a change of address from talking to God to talking about God and David's enemies.
Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation. Psalm 35:9
David begins with a promise to rejoice in God's deliverance.
The rest of this section describes the terrible treatment he has received. Though David treated them with love they have repaid him with evil.
How Long, O Lord?
Once again the psalmist returns to talking directly to God.
How long, Lord, will you look on? Psalm 35:17
God's deliverance rarely seems to come when we expect it or want it. I find it a big comfort to read the psalmist's complaints to God. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. Even a great hero of the faith, like David, wondered "how long?" David's complaints become mine as I cry out to God and ask, "How much longer before You answer my prayer for help?"
David's biggest concern in this section is that his enemy may be able to gloat over his fall. The final request is that God would shame the wicked and bring joy to the righteous.
The last verse is a declaration of praise. David has placed his trust in God and believes that one day he will be able to praise God for the victory.
My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long. Psalm 35:28
This psalm reminds me that it is OK to feel frustration at God for the evils I experience or see. It is OK to tell God how I feel. It is OK to desire justice and vindication. But in the end I need to place my full trust in God and offer a sacrifice of praise, believing that God will do what is right and good.